Pokémon Go Has Health Benefits?

Pokémon-go-fitness

by Matt Weik

I must admit, I have made fun of literally every single person who has told me they downloaded and are playing this game. I simply can’t relate to them since I’m not ten and actually have work to do. I don’t have time to go chase around imaginary characters in public and look like a fool. But then I started thinking about one aspect of the game that made me wonder if there might be at least one benefit from acting like a nerd who has no life. Getting outside and getting active.

To play or not to play, that is the question…

The game forces you to go out in the world so you aren’t stuck in your mom’s basement all day playing video games and eating Cheetos. If you’re an adult with a wife and kids and are playing this game, well, go ahead and reevaluate your life—just sayin. However, going back to the potential health benefit, the game forces you to go outside, get some fresh air, and MOVE. Many gamers don’t get enough exercise because they spend all their time sitting down playing video games. Obviously with the advent of virtual reality gaming, this too has got some people up and moving a little so long as you can afford the platform and games.

This game takes you outside where you can “catch” other characters depending on where you are geographically. Supposedly there are water-characters that you would find near water, you can find different characters near historical sites, even when walking around your own neighborhood. This also comes as a double-edged sword. Just like the idiots who have their face buried in their phones and walk into fountains at malls and oncoming traffic, the same accidents could happen with this game as well.

How much exercise and health benefits can someone get playing this game?

Well, I guess that depends on how long they play for. Sure, the game gets people moving, but for how long and are they getting their heart rate up enough to truly make a difference? Reviews from the game are mixed. There are many who love it while some say it crashes frequently and there are many bugs that need to be fixed. This raises another question. If you are outside walking around finding these virtual characters and the game locks up or has an issue, what are you going to do? Probably stop walking to try and diagnose the issue right? So you don’t truly have continuous exercise patterns while playing the game. Sure, you can argue the fact that if you are getting in the recommended 30 minutes of daily exercise that it doesn’t matter how it’s broken up, but my point is generally those who are playing videos aren’t always the most active individuals to begin with and generally aren’t getting in the full 30 minutes that are recommended daily anyway. So for that fact, it would be important that they don’t stop while playing this game.

Some doctors are praising the game for its mental health benefits as well. They mentioned that the game itself has the ability to help individuals who are suffering from depression and social anxiety. Along with those benefits also came claims that the game improved people’s overall moods and outlook on exercise and can give them the motivation to start moving. Individuals who find the game fun are more willing to continue playing it along with adhering to exercise (from the game) on a daily basis. This in turn could begin forming healthy habits and teach those who aren’t interested in exercise that it isn’t as bad as what they imagined it being. Studies also link exercise to positive mental health but mentioned they need to research if video gaming has any mental health benefits or not.

Have I changed my mind about this game?

Maybe, sorta, kinda. I do like the fact that it’s getting people active and outside. But is it enough activity? We have yet to find that out. I also like the physical and mental health benefits from it. Would I simply love to see people not playing the game but still getting active? Absolutely. If you have been following the news, then you have heard all about this game frustrating many people. Some of these virtual characters are found in cemeteries, fire stations, the holocaust museum, and very populated areas where there is much going on. This has caused several injuries due to people having their face stuck in their phone as well as quite a few armed robberies due to people not being aware of their surroundings while staring at their smartphones.

The game has, however, helped some businesses. For $10 businesses can pay to have these virtual characters placed at their location. The game uses GPS coordinates to place the virtual characters. So a business can stand at their place of business, pay the $10 to place a character on site, and immediately get people heading in their direction. Those businesses that are doing such who sell food seem to be the ones making out like bandits. Some businesses have said their sales have risen over 75% due to a $10 investment in the game. I’m not sure where you would ever get those types of returns off of an investment of only $10.

So standing on the fence I can see both sides of the story—positives and negatives. Do the positives outweigh the negatives? I guess only time will tell. The launch of the game pretty much just happened and you won’t see people’s lives changing for quite some time if they change at all. I’m not jumping on the bandwagon just yet even though I like the idea that it gets people moving. Personally, I don’t think it is going to be enough to make a difference in their overall weight and health. In terms of mental health and social anxiety, I can see the game definitely helping in that aspect. So I’m excited to see if there’s any proof that it has done so after it has been around long enough to do some studies. But I honestly don’t see this game changing the way people view health and fitness. To them, it’s simply a game that forces them to walk around a little. They aren’t running around or probably even getting their heart rate over 20% of their heart rate max. You also have to remember that you can’t out-train a poor diet which this game will not effect. So ultimately while you’re getting a little bit of exercise, if you’re still eating junk, your weight will not change drastically.

And lastly, if you have a family at home and decide to start playing this game, at least include the family if they are interested in doing so. If you’re going off on your own to find some virtual character while your wife and kid are at home, then you deserve to have your wife club you or change the locks before you get back. 

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